prison paid for by our rates and taxes. They should be shot straight away." The second speaker said, with conviction: "The worst thing that happened was when they stopped using the birch and the cat o nine tails".
Who were they speaking of? IRA? Arab terrorists? Hijackers? National Fronters? Muggers? Or maybe young hooligans on the football terraces?
I did not know, so I turned round in my seat in the bus to look at these tough reformers of our world and merciless defenders of law and order. They were two dear old ladies, laden with plastic bags from the supermarket, deadly serious in their view of justice.
Without having heard them, I would have imagined them kindly grandmothers with never a harsh thought, but how wrong I was. The conductor taking their fares was nodding his agreement and a man across the aisle said fiercely: "Bring back capital punishment" and there was an atmosphere throughout the bus of approval. It was to be an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.
This was their solid, unshaken creed, whatever other faith they might subscribe to on Sundays. And it shook me. Fifteen hundred years of Christianity in this land and what has happened to Christ's message? What about loving our enemies? Turning the other cheek? Forgiving as we hope to be forgiven? Never trying to get revenge? Conquering evil with good?
It wasn't that I did not want a firm stand to be taken against whatever lawlessness they were speaking about, but couldn't it be taken without the hate that came out in their words and tone of voice? Can we really be a Christian country when we think like this?
Of course I know what my teenagers Tom and Susan would answer, but they are young, and young people cut through cornplex situations. I missed my bus stop wondering how far I was responsible for unChristian thinking and judgments.
When I got off at the next stop. the to old ladies got off too. There was a young girl collecting for the home for handicapped children. They opened their purses and put in a contribution. What a mixture we all are.